After a lengthy trip in an R44 it is a relief to view your aircraft sitting happily at its landing site. But, a business meeting in Girona, 46 minutes flight as opposed to 2.6 hours driving made getting back into India Zulu a no-brainer. Also the chance to fly - if not over - close to the Catalan part of the Pyrenees national park was very enticing.
The morning dawned with okay viz, but a stiff breeze blowing from the North West made any idea of attempting high ground crossing non-viable. So we took a more Easterly route heading towards the coast to the North of Perpignan. The tail wind was quite gutsy and at times we were achieving a ground speed in excess of 145knts so it was a relief to have 4 persons on board providing a bit of handy ballast. Once out on the coast the flight south down the coast line towards Girona was spectacular.
The long sand beaches between Narbonne and Perpignan are coloured with kites, sand yachts, wind surfers, kite surfers and parasailers. Further down the coast and past the French border you fly down the Costa Brava where huge tourist hotels are interspersed with wild coastlines, steep shelving rocks and clear blue water. The ATC along the coast was excellent, friendly and unobtrusive starting with Monpellier and then changing to Girona once past the border.
Helipaddy would not normally wax lyrical about an airfield. Specialising as we do in the more esoteric places to land, but Girona is super relaxed. It is also only 20 minutes taxi ride from one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities and for foodies it is the home of the newly crowned best restaurant in the world El Celler de Can Roca, where the tables must be booked 1 year in advance. The standout dish by all accounts, although Helipaddy hasn’t tried it, mackerel with pickles and mullet roe. So you know what to order should you make it to the top of the list.
We returned to the airfield some hours later and many times heavier, so much heavier in fact, that we did a weight a balance to see if full fuel was viable. It was.
The handling agent at Gerona (LEGE) is Daniel at CentreVol. Landing fees are 28 Euros and there is a handling fee of 75 Euros reduced to 50 Euros if you mention Helipaddy. Fuel is cheap and refuelling is available 24/7.
The return journey was once more along the coast as the wind was still 20Knts, but now with a large headwind component. It is always frustrating to be over hauled by the coaches on the auto route. Time home 1.6, maybe would have been faster with a car!